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Welcome to the voxgig newsletter for tech speakers, 25 May 2018


Here’s the hard truth: you don’t get invited to speak at the bigger conferences until you’ve done something interesting and noteworthy. Unless you’ve founded a colony on Mars, or got a billion people to sign up to your website, you’re not going to find it easy to land the big gigs.

So my advice here is inverted: to get speaking slots at big conferences, don’t try to get speaking slots at big conferences.

Instead, try to do something interesting that will get you invited. I’ll wait. Come back in ten years and we can talk.

But (there’s always a but!)… there’s good (or at least slightly better) news too.

Big-ticket conferences can’t survive on celebrity speakers alone. Nor can they pay for an agenda full of professional speakers. They still need us plebs to fill out their agendas, no matter how big they are.

I’ve spoken at the WebSummit [https://websummit.com/]. I wasn’t exactly on the same stage as Elon Musk—I was round the back on the Developer Stage. But I was there. There’s a lot more wiggle room than you think for getting a big conference onto your speaking resumé.

How did I get that WebSummit slot in the first place? It was by invitation. I was invited because I have built up a reputation as a safe pair of hands.

It’s a given that you can speak well, that you have something interesting to say, and that you have a bit of a following on Twitter and the like. It’s a given that you’ve put in the time over a number of years to build up your speaking skills, starting with meetups and small events, and working your way up to community conferences and all the rest. You have to put in the time. There have to be videos of you online doing your thing.

Even after all that, you still need to be safe. By that, I mean you need to have a reputation for turning up on time, giving the talk you promised to give, not using your speaking slot for product promotion, sticking around afterwards to talk to delegates privately, not drinking to excess at the speakers’ dinner the night before, and most importantly, not ever acting inappropriately towards other attendees.

To put it another, more blunt way: running a conference is really hard. Running a big, professional conference is heartbreakingly hard. Dealing with difficult speakers? There’s nothing that will get you blacklisted more quickly than becoming known as a pain in the ass.

The best way to end up with the good slots at big conferences, apart from changing the world, is to make a name for yourself as a reliable professional. You want to become known as someone who just turns up and delivers the goods without any fuss.

Let go of your ego, and you’ll end up on stage.

  • Richard




Speaker Profile

Screen grab of Sam Tam on stage at Ted event, he's wearing a white shirt, green and grey striped tie, grey waistcoat he's Asian American and wears glasses

Pitching your way to the TEDx stage
Simon Tam

“Nothing happens until you ask. Waiting and hoping for an opportunity doesn’t actually get you that opportunity. No matter how passionate you are. No matter how hard you work. Until you ask, the answer is ‘no.’” Simon Tam shares his own experience of finding success by simply asking for the things we want in life, including getting on stage at big conferences. How do we prepare ourselves for any major opportunity in life? Take a listen as he shares a few tips to pitching your way to the TEDx stage.

Learn from the Best

image of Bernadette Doyle wearing smart blue dress with red brick wall in the background and yellow and white flowers on table that is out of the picture. Very well presented. Bernadette has her hair and makeup perfect

How to get speaking engagements at conferences
Bernadette Doyle

Here is some solid advice to improve your chances of getting booked at larger events and conferences.
In order to get speaking engagements at bigger events, you need to start with the smaller events. Bernadette tells us: “Find the local groups who are meeting in your area… I would have spoken at the local brownie group if they would have taken me.”

Tell me…

 What is your biggest challenge as a tech speaker?

This newsletter is for you. I want it to include hints, tips and strategies that resonate with you.

So go ahead, hit reply and tell me what aspects of conference speaking  you would like me to focus on. 

Email me at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig I will address the most pressing issues in each edition.

Book of the Week

Book Cover image for "speaker camp" book, Speaker is written in Capitals and thick black text, camp is contrasted in white capital letters, on a green background with the Author names and some descriptive text on the cover.

Speaker Camp

Russ Unger
Samantha Starmer

Speaker Camp covers the mechanics of presenting material onstage, managing an audience, and explains how to approach making updates and revisions to presentations after you’ve given them.


I found the section on brainstorming your big idea to be especially helpful. Prospective conference speakers often struggle with determining what to talk about. Unger and Starmer take you through specific exercises to define and refine your ideas. There is also great emphasis on the concept that a great idea is the true foundation for the whole presentation.


Blog Post

Don’t even think about applying for a TEDx talk (until you have taken these six steps)

Leonard Kim


Getting accepted to speak at any conference takes concerted effort. Applying to speak at a much larger conference, like TEDx, requires skill, preparation and know-how. “Do you think you are ready to give a TEDx talk? Do you have a big idea that you want to share with the world? Have you been applying to speak at TEDx talks but always get the denial email months after you apply?” Read on!




Three Conferences


Amsterdam JSNation

Amsterdam JSNation

“JAVASCRIPT, NO EXCEPTIONS!” It’s clear what will be on the agenda for this conference! Two tracks over two days, where over 500 developers converge in the cool Zuiderkerk, a converted church with a history dating back to 1601. JavaScript speakers and devs come together in one of Europe’s top destinations to discuss all things JS.


Pittsburgh Tech Fest

Pittsburgh Tech Fest

Coding, tools, agile, and project management are just a few of the topics that will be presented at the Pittsburgh Tech Fest for software development professionals. All development disciplines and all development stacks are welcome, so take a look at the agenda and start packing. Be sure to see a bit of The Steel City while you’re at it!




Attention Java enthusiasts and geeks alike! Ready to learn new ideas, meet over 600 fellow geeks, and listen to 22 Java superstar speakers? Then Tallinn, Estonia is the place to be in June to hear more about developer tooling, solution architecture, programming methodologies, continuous delivery and more. And it’s all followed by an after party you don’t want to miss!




CFP Calendar

These are the CFP deadline dates and submission pages.

Speaker Training

Do you speak at conferences? Want to learn how to give the very best talks? Or are you just starting out and want to overcome the fear of speaking on stage?

We are running speaker training workshops in Dublin and London, in Ireland and the U.K. over the coming months.

There is a 10% OFF early bird discount if you book before May 22nd.

To find out more follow the links below.

Public speaking with Lauren Currie

London, UK – Friday June 22, 2018 | More Details

Giving great talks with Russ Miles

Dublin, Ireland – Tuesday July 17, 2018 | More Details

Public speaking with Debbie Forster

London, UK – Thursday October 18, 2018 | More Details

Giving great talks with Russ Miles

London, UK – Tuesday September 25, 2018 | More Details




A favour…

Can I ask you for a favour? If you enjoy this newsletter, and if you find it useful, please consider recommending it to a friend who is learning to give technical talks, or who aspires to do so. I meet so many cool programmers who have brilliant things to share with the world—that’s you!

Please help me to improve this newsletter – I’d love to hear your suggestions! You can email me directly at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig. Thank you so much for reading!

A special thanks and shout out to TammyCora, and David for helping to make this newsletter even better!


Thank you! Please let me know what you think!